The Roadhouse Glow

The Return of Twin Peaks has been a spectacular feat of television in the midst of what is quite rightly called “the golden age” of TV. How, in the age of the “binge”, when almost any piece of recorded film is a few keystrokes away, do you hold the rapt attention of the most sophisticated audience in history from week to week?

Keep them guessing, maybe. Or in some cases, scratching their head.

According to what I’ve seen on social media, it’s Twin Peaks and Game of Thrones delivering on that classic “tune in next week” experience on TV; where cliffhangers and upheavals keep audiences on the edge of their seats and in circles around water coolers. It used to be sort of standard, but now it’s a rarity of anticipation that I’m savouring.

The Walking Dead, too – but I left that show somewhere back in the Prison.

Bang Bang

Bang Bang

Twin Peaks continues to fascinate in this regard because it’s not a Shakespearian tragedy full of war and politics and zombies (take your pick as to which of the other two shows I’m referring to); it’s more like a dream and a soap opera. A painting and a music video.

I’ve painted four illustrations in tribute to the show’s aesthetics already, and with the return, there’s been so much gorgeous Lynchian imagery to go swimming in I couldn’t resist doing another. As it stands now (part twelve only having aired a couple of days ago), Dale Cooper is still lost in the periphery – tangled in the curtains between worlds. Apparitions are part of the fabric of the show, and seeing Agent Cooper approaching the roadhouse alone while simultaneously walking the floor of the Black Lodge was where my heart was after watching him sleepwalking through memories of black coffee and cherry pie for so many episodes now.

This was the third of my live paintings; broadcast over the intertubes over the course of a few days. The soundtrack to the broadcasts were provided by Roy Orbison, Dave Brubeck, Booker T and the MGs, and Nine Inch Nails among others.

I should point out that the above image is reduced in size by quite a lot in order to economically put it online, and also to avoid image piracy. The source files, and the image as printed to giclee are much richer in colour and in painterly detail.

I  tried to paint it fat and juicy with colour and contrasting lights and darks from the outset. If you dig in, even the shadows are full of purples and greens set against each-other in balance.

The whole scene is not only lit, but transformed by the light of the neon sign. If you let your eye rest in different places, it has the effect of a hologram; the wood of the building becoming lit from within. Inspired by painters like Edward Hopper, I wanted it to feel as much like a dream as the show itself does.

Do I overexplain this stuff or what?

I can’t wait to see what’s coming next Sunday. There’s only a few episodes left, but I’m not expecting any kind of closure on this story.

If you like the image, feel free to pick up a print or a card or a sticker. You can read about some of my other adventures in Twin peaks here, and here.

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Art: Fire Walk With Me

Y’know how I said I wanted to paint something else Twin Peaks related in that other article I wrote? Well, this is it.

"When you see me again, it won't be me."

“When you see me again, it won’t be me.”

I’d been working on this piece for the better part of the afternoon before I’d decided to take a break.

I never trust my own judgment about any painting I’m working on if I’ve been staring at it for too long. I can’t. I tend to think things are finished that aren’t, or make huge mistakes in terms of composition, likeness, scale, and colour. I need to take a break once in a while to get some objectivity back. Recalibrate my visual taste-buds, as it were.

It was getting dark, and the storm outside was intensifying, so I decided to cook up some rice for dinner and watch an episode or two of Twin Peaks to switch gears a little without losing the road altogether. One or two shows became four or five (mixed in with a couple episodes of the X Files), and it was just about midnight when BOOM, the whole neighborhood went dark. A complete and instantaneous blackout.

In show terms, this happened just as Agent Cooper was shot in the doorway of his hotel room. For a moment, I thought it was just part of the show since the blackout corresponded so closely with the sound of the gunshot. It was one hell of a dramatic effect, let me tell you.

Slightly spooked, I grabbed my phone and used it to light my way to my bedroom. I was eager to call it a night before UFOs started landing outside, or Bob showed up in his Canadian tuxedo to snarl at me from behind the furniture.

The next morning the power was back on, but my computer wasn’t. I realized I’d left this painting half-finished on my screen, and wondered if I’d actually saved it or not. I was damn sure I had, but I’d lost hours of work to blackouts before, if not whole pieces.

According to photoshop, it wasn’t there.

I knew I’d saved it. I remember consciously doing so at the beginning of my break, but I couldn’t find any trace of it. It wasn’t just a set-back, my computer was telling me I’d lost it completely. After some frustrated animal noises and a string of expletives, I dug around a bit and found a copy that was about 20 minutes older than my last save and got back to work – finishing it all off in about an hour.

That’s an appropriately weird way for a painting like this to come into being, I thought. It was a hell of a lot longer break than I intended to take, too.

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Twin Peaks: Cherry Pie with Me

I have mixed feelings about Twin Peaks. On the one hand, it’s an absurd, atmospheric masterpiece that mixes the comically surreal with horror in such a uniquely delicious way. On the other hand its boring and gets lost chasing itself down dead ends.

Twin Peaks: Cherry Pie with Me

Twin Peaks: Cherry Pie with Me

The way the tone switches back and forth from dull and odd to terrifying leaves you completely disarmed against it. The show’s rhythms are so unpredictable and strange that you never quite feel comfortable with it. It defies the logic that the average viewer might otherwise take some refuge in, and in that way it’s very much like a strange dream that you just know is about to switch into an inescapable nightmare, but you never quite know when. I both love and fear it for those reasons, which keeps me perpetually fascinated.

But really I’m there for the damn fine coffee and cherry pie that’ll kill ‘ya. It’s the characters I’m most attached to; their interactions with each-other and the world they inhabit. Without Agent Cooper and the huge cast of characters he’s surrounded by, the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death would have held no interest for me.

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